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Accepted Paper:

Drawing beyond the visible: Indigenous family history, colonial collections, and archival returns  
Anna Weinreich (University of Amsterdam)

Paper Short Abstract:

Using the method of "archival return," this paper reconsiders Indigenous visual culture in ethnographic collections through the lens of Indigenous family history. It examines how this approach can help to both address and undo the erasures that are produced by colonial archives.

Paper Abstract:

In this paper, I consider the potentials of a life history approach to colonial collections for expanding the interpretative frameworks of provenance research beyond the purview of postcolonial critique. Drawing on long-term collaborative research with the Indigenous custodians of a historical Australian collection kept at the Ethnological Museum of Berlin, my discussion focuses on a set of drawings created by the Gunditjmara stockkeeper John Dawson. Offering a rare Indigenous account of colonial life in mid-19th century Southeastern Australia, Dawson’s works bear witness to his encounter with collector Eugene von Guérard, an influential landscape painter and member of Melbourne’s German community.

Employing the method of “archival return” (Barwick et al. 2020), my analysis is grounded in conversations and journeys with Dawson's descendants, Indigenous Elders whose expertise spans the fields of cultural heritage, community health, land rights, and education. In their reading, the drawings are re-articulated with Indigenous family history and its lived experience, foregrounding the existential relationship of Dawson’s image making to kin and Country – fundamental concepts of Indigenous social life and politically charged markers of difference in the context Indigenous-settler relations. Offering a dynamic approach to undoing the processes of omission that have shaped the archival record, contemporary Indigenous accounts reconfigure the collection as a record of “survivance” (Vizenor 1999) and a vital resource for strengthening Indigenous “cultural futures” (Myers & Ginsburg 2006).

Panel OP071
Doing provenance research otherwise. From undoing colonial epistemologies to pluralising knowledge with museum collections
  Session 1 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -